Paper packaging and the circular economy

World Earth Day
Small changes you can make to mark World Earth Day
April 22, 2023
Paper money
The history of paper money [Infographic]
April 29, 2023
Paper packaging and the circular economy

How do we close the loop and reduce the environmental impact of our packaging? Switching to paper packaging from plastic is a big part of the story. However, we need to recycle too.

Paper has one of the highest recycling rates of any material supply chain.

However, there is always more we can do. The job of making our earth a better and more sustainable place depends on incremental change as much as it does on governmental and global action.

Sustainable consumption: reduce, reuse, recycle

The mantra for sustainable consumption is: reduce, reuse, recycle. The first and best option is simply to cut down our use of unnecessary or harmful packaging entirely – as the world is doing with single-use plastics, for example.

If you can’t reduce your use of a packaging material, the next best option is to reuse it. Paper and carboard offer a lot of opportunities for reuse. New guidance published by The Paper Bag, a collaboration between CEPI Eurokraft and EUROSAC, seeks to set a goal of all paper bags being able to carry home at least 6kg of products and be suitable for reuse up to five times. This will help to keep the carbon footprint of the packaging as low as possible.

Paper helps you reuse and recycle

Paper and cardboard can also be reused in more creative ways. For example, you can rip up old used office paper to create new sheets of artisan paper!

Opting for paper bags instead of plastic is an easy win. Paper bags are made from a bio-based, renewable and recyclable material which minimizes the environmental impact of the packaging. If natural and water-based inks and starch-based adhesives are used, paper bags do not harm the environment. It’s great for brands too: paper bags are a visible reminder that your brand is acting on its corporate and social responsibility values.

Furthermore, paper packaging helps with the third element of our eco-conscious mantra: recycling. Paper has one of the highest rates of recycling of any material. Industry body Two Sides estimates that in Europe the paper recycling rate stands at 72 percent.

The importance of having high-quality paper

Using high-quality paper carrier bags sends a clear signal of commitment to the environment. Thus, paper bags are a visible part of a brand’s corporate social responsibility and create a sustainable image along the value chain!

Continually improving the material lifecycle

We can all help to maximize the amount of our paper and carboard waste and packaging that is recycled.

Ideas include:

  • Remove plastic tape from carboard boxes before you send them to be recycled.
  • Remove staples before sending carboard or paper for recycling.
  • If you have a home compost, you can add carboard into your compost to save it being transported for recycling. Simply tear into small pieces before adding to your compost bin.
  • Don’t try to recycle cosmetic products, such as cottonwool or makeup pads.
  • Foiled papers can’t be recycled either.
  • If in doubt, check the manufacturer’s website for details about how the product can be recycled.

While it’s important to try to recycle as much of our waste as possible, it’s worth taking the time to sort your recycling and waste properly so that it doesn’t cause problems or reduce recycling rates further downstream.

What now?

Discover more ideas about paper, packaging, and recycling on our blog: